Pentax Auto 110 Review: A Nostalgic and Unique Pocket Film Camera by Katya Rowny

Pentax Auto 110 film camera - Pentax Auto 110 Review by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Katya Rowny

I recently inherited a Pentax Auto 110 camera from a family friend. They bought this camera over 30 years ago and recently found it sitting in a closet.

This particular camera kit came with three different lenses and some expired 110 film. I haven’t used a 110 camera since I was a kid and wasn’t even sure if 110 film was still being produced.

Thankfully, Lomography still makes 110 film along with a range of color and b&w options to choose from.

Using this pocket camera the last few months has been a great conversation starter while out and a joyful experience that has helped reignite my love of analog photography. This camera system is a nostalgic bundle all wrapped up in one.

Find the Pentax Auto 110 on eBay.

Pentax Auto 110 film camera - Pentax Auto 110 Review by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

History of the Pentax 110 Auto and 110 Film

Upon its market debut in 1978, the Pentax Auto 110 arrived amid the backdrop of 110 film’s seven-year presence.

During this span, the 110 film format was gradually forming a reputation characterized by mediocrity. The 110 film format (half the size of 135 (35mm) format) was introduced in 1972 and marketed as convenient and easy to use, though limited in terms of image quality compared to larger formats.

While the 110 format did boast noteworthy instances of excellence, such as the Minolta 110 Zoom SLRs (find on eBay), Rollei A110 (find on eBay), and 110 Kodachrome, the majority of cameras tailored for this film format were, frankly speaking, low-quality and subpar.

Pentax defied convention by introducing a marvel: the world’s smallest interchangeable lens SLR camera, the Pentax Auto 110. The full system consisted of six different lenses, two flashes, and a winder for automatic film advance.

In 1982, Pentax released the Auto 110 Super with a few minor differences. The Auto 110 Super included a timer with indicator LED on the front, a shutter lock, and a button for backlight compensation. Also, film winding was improved from the Auto 110’s two-stroke advance feature to a single-stroke film advance lever that advanced the film and cocked the shutter in one winding.

Pentax Auto 110 film camera - Pentax Auto 110 Review by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
A 110 film cartridge
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The Pentax Auto 110 Camera System

Despite its miniature size, the Pentax Auto 110 offered a surprising level of functionality.

Pentax introduced what they called “System 10.” This comprehensive set consisted of the Pentax Auto 110 camera, an autowinder, a duo of flashguns, and an assortment of three prime lenses.

Complementing this collection were filters, close-up lenses, and lens hoods, forming a fully integrated system. Even though this camera was marketed for the average consumer, it certainly came with a lot of accessories and options.

Pentax Auto 110 film camera - Pentax Auto 110 Review by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Metering and Exposure Settings

Incorporating a bright viewfinder, the Pentax Auto 110 is equipped with a split-image focusing screen that aligns with its Through-The-Lens (TTL) light metering system. Because exposure is metered through the lens by a silicon photodiode, there is no manual option.

This setup operates within a programmed exposure framework, accommodating a range that spans from 1 second at f/2.8 to a 1/750 second at f/13.5.

Curiously enough, the camera’s ability to determine film speed relies on a ridge’s presence or absence on the cartridge, conforming to the Kodak 110 film standard’s specifications. The film speeds weren’t precisely defined, categorized simply as “low” or “high.” This ambiguity left film and camera manufacturers with the responsibility of assigning significance to these categories.

Within this context, Pentax opted for ISO 80 and 320 as their designated settings. Commercially available films rated at ISO 100 and 400 offer practical compatibility due to their proximity. Yet introducing a film with ISO 200 speed could lead to either under or overexposure, straying from the optimal range.

Exposure details are conveyed through a single LED positioned at the bottom right of the viewfinder, illuminating upon a half-press.

The LED employs a green hue to denote higher shutter speeds (exceeding 1/30), while adopting an amber glow for slower speeds (falling below 1/30). Officially limited to a 1-second extension, the shutter’s capabilities seemingly extend further, accommodating exposures of up to 4 seconds.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Lenses and Focusing

The lenses designed for the Pentax Auto 110 do not have aperture blades and instead rely on the body’s twin-bladed shutter assembly to set f-stops.

Given its entirely automatic exposure system, the camera is devoid of manual controls, except for focus adjustments, basically making this camera more of a point and shoot system.

On the front of the camera, you’ll find nothing but a lens release lever. As you move to the top of the camera body, there are sockets for attaching an external flash unit, and a silver shutter button accompanied by a cable release socket.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Pentax Auto 110 Technical Specs

Camera Type: Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
Manufacture Dates: 1979-85
Metering: TTL
Shutter Speeds: Programmed Electronic Behind the Lens – 1sec – 1/750sec
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/13.5
Lenses: 7 lenses available ranging from 18mm to 50mm
Accessories: Flashgun, Motor Drive, Lens hoods and filters
Flash: Pentax 110 Flashguns AF100P and AF130P
Batteries: 2 LR44 Batteries
Weight: 172 grams
Size: 99mm x 55mm x 45mm

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Usability of the Pentax Auto 110

I bought 110 film from Lomography for a little over $20 for their three pack of Tiger 200 color film. I have not tried any of their b&w film, but they do sell and still produce a variety of options for the 110 camera. From Lobster Redscale, to LomoChrome Purple, Lomography makes it easy to be creative and have fun with your 110 camera.

I shot my two rolls of Tiger 200 over a period of a month or so, even traveling cross country with it. I used the 24mm lens with a UV filter attached. Both of my rolls were developed and scanned by TheFindLab using a Noritsu scanner. I did not color correct any of the photos below, only straightened them.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

The first roll I put through the Pentax Auto 110 (find on eBay) ended up blank, and, after researching, I realized that two batteries were required for the camera to work.

Having a blank roll come back can be very discouraging, especially because the shutter worked and advanced as if it had batteries. Lesson learned. I found the small space where the batteries go, next to the film cartridge, and installed two LR44 batteries and put in a fresh roll of Tiger Color 200, and the second roll worked perfectly.

Pentax Auto 110 film camera - Pentax Auto 110 Review by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
LR44 batteries for the Pentax Auto 110

Depending on the lighting situation, the camera gives you feedback via the LED light in the viewfinder. Most of the images were shot outside during summer, so the light was glorious.

Some photos came out underexposed and some were blurry due to hand shake. I struggled using the split-image focusing, but most of the shots came out well despite my errors.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
A few images came back blurry.
110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
A few images came back blurry.

The film exhibited graininess, which is par for the course considering the small negative size. It’s worth noting that a well-exposed shot tends to yield better results. Underexposed negatives showcased pronounced grain, yet the resolution remained commendable.

On the color front, I must say the images below showcase a generally pleasing palette. An interesting side note is that if you want to change the cassette mid-roll, you only lose one frame while doing so.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film
Underexposed images show more pronounced grain.

Light Leaks with the Pentax Auto 110

Some users have observed sporadic small orange light leaks scattered across their frames. While my rolls did not present this problem, here is some advice to remedy those pesky light leaks!

This phenomenon is often attributed to a flaw in the backing paper within the cassette.

While this occurrence is relatively common, there is a workaround: put a strip of tape across the window frame present on most 110 cameras. This approach might obscure your view of the frame count; however, this compromise effectively eliminates those pesky orange light leak spots.

You can also peel back the tape if you wish to check your frame count momentarily.

Another common issue is “golden orbs,” but I did not experience these either. These light leaked outcomes are aligned with the ethos of Lomography, embodying the sense of unpredictability that characterizes the brand.

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would recommend this camera if you’re looking to change things up in a fun, unexpected, and delightful way.

The Pentax Auto 110 is available on eBay for around $100 and on the high end of $300 for a whole kit and kaboodle.

I love how compact and portable the camera, lenses, and film cartridge are. The camera easily fits in my belt bag and draws conversations with those around.

Having a variety of different lenses is convenient and the overall sharpness of the film is pretty impressive for such a small package. I would love to hear your experiences or thoughts on this unique compact camera!

110 film photography image with the Pentax Auto 110 by Katya Rowny on Shoot It With Film

Thank you so much, Katya! Katya is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, such as the Olympus XA2 Point & Shoot Film Camera Review and Elektra 100 Film Stock Review.

You can also find more of Katya’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Pentax Auto 110 film camera below in the comments, and you can pick up one for yourself on eBay and find 110 film on Adorama here.

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Katya Rowny

Katya Rowny is a travel photographer and a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus XA2 Point & Shoot Film Camera Review.

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Blog Comments

This author is so knowledgeable.. I really appreciate the detail and research she provides in every article. Please keep these excellent articles coming!

Thank you kindly!

Great job, nice photos!

Thank you so much : )

Thank you for an informative article. I should like to point out though 110 film is not the only film format in use.
110 film is 16mm wide with a 13 x 17mm frame size, not all of which is avilable when using packaged 110 fim due to the mask printed on the fim in manufacture.
It has sprocket holes spaced approximately at 25mm intervals to provide positive location and in some cases shutter cocking.
110 cameras if counted by numbers produced were trmendously sucessfull, outselling the total of all other fim cameras made.
The fim format was not new, most major camera makers Minolta, Mamaya, Rollei, Wirgin, Edixa and Yashica (to name a few) from the 1940’s onwards produced cameras that used 16mm wide film, however the cassettes and sprocket hole requirements differed with maker and cassettes were generally expected to be hand loaded with the owners film of choice,
Additional formats such as used by Steky -17.5mm wide film with central sprocet holes and Minox and Yashica which used nominally 9.5mm wide film.
110 film killed them all stone dead due to the standardised cassette and drop in loading.
The alternative formats still have a following today, and when new, the 16mm cameras could be expensive, a Minolta MG-s 16mm camera when new cost the equivalent of $1400 today putting it into the semi professional level.

Bill,
Thank you so much for your helpful insight! Sounds like you have a broader wealth of information and I appreciate you sharing it with us!

The Auto 110 is such a fun small camera to use. I took my out recently for some pictures of waterfalls. Hoping for some good results.

Nature photography can be so fun with this little camera! Excited for you and hoping you like the results!

Hang on to those lenses! They can be adapted to several digital cameras: M4/3, PentaxQ, and others.

Oooooh! What a great point , thank you so much for that reminder Stephen! Have you adapted any of these lenses on other cameras before?

I’ve used the 18mm, 24mm, 50mm and 70mm on a Pentax Q7. They are all good and the 50mm is exceptional:
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